Health care expenditures for residents of the Evergreen State are nearly $8,000 per capita. Finding ways to make health care more affordable is a priority for many Washington households and getting the best vision insurance coverage is a great way to reduce overall costs.
Here’s how to choose the best plan.
Quick Look – Best Vision Insurance in Washington
- Best Overall: VSP – Get a quote
- Davis Vision
Overview: Vision Coverage in Washington State
Vision coverage is included in many workplace health care plans, but many other plans don’t include vision insurance. Washington state seniors also have a need for eye care coverage.
Unfortunately, Medicare Part A and Part B won’t cover most vision care needs, forcing you to explore complicated Medicare Advantage Plans, which may or may not provide the coverage you need. A number of independent vision insurance plans can help fill the gap and provide coverage for exams, glasses or contacts and offer easy-to-understand coverage options.
If you qualify based on income and household size, limited vision coverage may be available through Washington Apple Health (Medicaid). In some cases, health insurance add-ons, like vision or dental insurance, may be available.
Healthplanfinder is a health care portal specific to Washington and independent of Healthcare.gov. If you don’t qualify for Washington Apple Health (free or low-cost) coverage, you may still qualify for federal subsidies for health care plans purchased through Washington Healthplanfinder.
Many households in the market for vision insurance choose to bypass the limitations of state portal plans and purchase their own coverage directly from providers. Strictly speaking, most vision coverage isn’t insurance but is closer to a maintenance plan that includes certain services and offers reduced pricing on other products or services. The end result is often both cost savings and more predictable eye care expenses.
Costs for vision insurance plans in Washington range from $10 to $20 per month in most cases. Some plans cost a bit more and family plans offering a lower cost per person than individual plans.
If you have a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) through your employer, you can use your plan savings to help pay for approved expenses not covered by your plan. This structure can reduce your costs further but federal rules prohibit the use of tax-advantaged health savings accounts to pay for coverage premiums.
Standalone vision insurance coverage typically doesn’t require a deductible but copayments are common. Copayments are paid directly to the service provider and are usually low.
In almost all cases, you’ll find corrective eye surgery, like LASIK or PRK laser eye surgery, are offered at discounted pricing only. Plans don’t provide payment toward the procedure but may provide a lower price than you can negotiate independently.
What to Look for in the Best Vision Insurance Companies
You’ll find many similar plan structures as you shop for vision insurance coverage. Some plans manage costs by using network doctors and may offer different coverage structures for out-of-network coverage.
Terms you’ll encounter include copayments or the amount you’ll pay at the time a service is performed, and allowances, which refer to the amount the coverage provider will pay for a service. Amounts above the allowance have to be paid out-of-pocket directly to the service provider.
Expect to make a 12-month commitment for your vision insurance coverage. You can usually pay monthly, which makes your vision care costs predictable.
Affordable Monthly Rate
It’s easy to overpay for coverage, so it’s important to evaluate a plan’s value based on how you’ll use it. A plan with higher premiums may offer more coverage but the coverage advantages may be for services you and your family won’t use.
Similarly, the lowest-cost plan may have higher copays or lower allowances, which can make the overall cost higher in some cases. Always evaluate a plan based on the cost of the services you expect to use.
Do you have receipts from previous eyewear purchases? If so, examine your recent costs for glasses. You’ll want to pick a plan that offers a similar level of coverage.
The allowance is the amount the vision insurance provider will pay toward frames and basic lenses. Lens treatments are usually extras and often are only partly covered. Also, any amounts above the allowance must be paid out of pocket.
There are several situations in which the number of doctors in the plan and the locations can be a consideration. If you (or your kids) prefer a certain eye doctor, you’ll want to consider plans that your optometrist uses. You may wish to choose a plan that covers other areas where you or your family frequently travel.
Depending on the plan you choose, care outside of the network may not be covered or may be covered at a reduced rate.
The copayment is the part of the office visit or service that you pay and is a fixed dollar amount. Not all services have copayments and there may be other out-of-pocket costs as well. For example, you might have a $10 copay for an exam or a $20 copay for frames and basic lenses. If the combined copayments are too high, a given plan may not offer as much value as an alternative plan.
Lens Enhancement Coverage
Lens enhancements, like glare-resistant lenses or scratch or impact-resistant lenses, often have a higher copayment than exams or frames with basic lenses.
Each vision insurance provider offers a slightly different pricing schedule. It makes sense to consider copayments for lens enhancements for specific frame options you expect to use now and in the future, which can add up quickly.
Our Picks for the Top Eye Insurance Companies
You can usually purchase vision insurance at any time because most plans are standalone plans that aren’t subject to open enrollment periods like the Affordable Care Act health plans.
However, expect to make a 1-year commitment and waiting periods for coverage may apply. Some providers offer a discount for paying the annual premium all at once. Here are our top picks for Washington.
Best Overall: VSP
We like VSP for its easy-to-understand coverage, which makes VSP a solid choice for consumers and a common choice for employer-sponsored plans.
Plans in Washington are as low as $12.44 per month, so VSP isn’t the lowest-cost plan in terms of monthly premiums — but the combination of coverages and affordable copayments make VSP a compelling value for many households.
Exam copays are fixed at $15 per visit and basic lenses are covered for only a $25 copayment, whether you go for single, bifocal or trifocal lenses.
Frame coverage comes with an allowance of either $150 or $230 for individuals, depending on the plan you choose. Copayments for lens options vary, so you’ll want to review the costs if you use lens options like anti-glare or progressive lenses.
Through its subsidiary, Golden Rule Insurance Company, UnitedHealthcare offers 2 choices for vision insurance coverage in Washington, priced monthly at $9.50 and $13.10, respectively. Features and copayments for the plans are similar with one major distinction:
The $13 plan covers contacts as well — even if you purchased glasses with the plan.
The less-expensive plan only provides coverage for one of the two. Annual eye exams are available with a $10 copay and out-of-network exams are covered for up to $50.
Frames from in-network providers are covered with a $150 allowance, which is halved to $75 if you choose an out-of-network provider. No coverage is provided for lens options but allowances for single vision, bifocal or trifocal lenses help keep costs affordable.
With a history dating back to 1917 as Davis Optical, a family-owned eyecare store, Davis Vision has transformed over the years to become one of the leading managed vision care programs.
Many of Davis’ 22 million members come to the company through employer-sponsored plans, but individual and family plans are also available through online brokers.
Expect to pay between $11 per month to $13 per month for plans. Plan premiums include a $1 per month membership fee for Benefits Association, Inc. (BAI) membership, which is required for purchase.
Eye exam copayments are affordable at $10 to $15 and frame allowances are generous at up to $175. Mid- and top-tier plans provide frame replacement allowances once per year. Standard prescription lenses are available annually with a $25 copay.
Boasting over 44,000 providers, EyeMed has one of the largest networks and has 3 plans for Washington state residents, ranging from $5 per month up to $30 per month.
The lowest-cost plan, EyeMed Healthy, is structured like a discount plan and offers a free eye exam combined with discounts for frames and lenses. EyeMed Bold and EyeMed Bright, EyeMed’s step-level and top-tier plans, offer coverage closer to what you’ll find with other leading vision insurance providers.
EyeMed Bright offers higher allowances, with a $200 allowance for frames or for contact lenses. Popular lens options like UV treatment, tinting or scratch-resistant coating are available without a copayment with EyeMed’s Bold and Bright vision plans.
Vision insurance coverage through Ameritas offers the freedom to choose any provider and coverage beginning on day 1 for less than $10 per month.
The plan provides 1 annual exam with a $10 copayment and an exam allowance of $50, which should cover most basic exams with no additional out-of-pocket costs.
Frames come with a lifetime deductible, which can add to the cost of your first pair and have a $65 allowance. Lenses have a separate allowance ranging from $40 up to $100, depending on the type of lenses you need (single, bifocal, trifocal or progressive). Lens or contact lens replacement is available once per year but frames are only covered once every 24 months.
Choosing the Best Vision Insurance in Washington State
If one or more people in your household need glasses, a vision plan can often save you money and sometimes the savings can be significant. Take your time when choosing and review coverage details carefully when choosing because most plans require a 12-month commitment.
Some plans may require a waiting period before full coverage is available. In particular, pay special attention to lens option costs if you use lens options. Some plans may only offer minimal coverage, which can lead to costly surprises, while others offer generous coverage or even no-cost coverage for many popular options.
Don’t forget: if you have a health savings account or flexible savings account, the tax-free savings in your account can help cover copayments or other out-of-pocket (non-premium) expenses.
Considering your insurance options? Check out Benzinga’s guide on whether vision insurance is worth it. Also, if you’re looking for your little one(s), explore your choices for vision insurance for kids.